Having been concerned about the prospect of change ever since it was first floated last year, the Mid South Eastern Football League has welcomed the latest development from the SANFL with open arms.
After picking up from where the Limestone Coast Regional Football Council left off, the SANFL has brought the talk of changing the future of the sporting soul of the community back to life.
The SANFL recently sent out a survey to the Western Border and Mid South Eastern clubs which mainly looked at short-term fixes such as a combined 16-team competition and a junior hub.
After receiving more than 170 responses the SANFL working group analysed the results and decided against pursuing the 16-team proposal.
If it went ahead, it would have brought the Western Border and Mid South Eastern clubs together with Penola in a brand new competition.
There was a feeling that some Western Border clubs held a desire for change, while the teams playing in the Mid South Eastern competition did not share the same opinion.
An inequity in playing numbers – especially in the junior grades – was the most significant concern among others.
So it will be a surprise for few to hear the Mid South Eastern Football League president Peter Mitchell said he welcomed the findings of the SANFL Working Party.
“It is pleasing to see there is no appetite for a combined league of 16 clubs,” he said.
“As I see it, we are facing four critical challenges.
“We have to develop programs to encourage youngsters to take up playing football and netball.
“Secondly, we have to find ways to retain them and keep them playing at a senior level when they come out of junior grades.
“Low umpire numbers continues to be an issue.
“Fourthly, we also have to recruit and encourage more volunteers and also keep them involved in the sports.
“These matters would not have been fixed by combining the two leagues.”
But the shutdown of this proposal does not mean the calls for change will completely disappear with the SANFL stating it “will continue to work with key football stakeholders to investigate potential proposals in the Limestone Coast region”.
The establishment of the SANFL working group and consultation process which involved the survey follows a full review of the football in the region by the SANFL Limestone Coast Regional Council last year.
The SANFL was approached by The SE Voice but did not want to comment any further following some brief statements in the immediate aftermath of the survey.
The Western Border Football League and Netball Association were also approached and declined to comment, but did reveal they will hold a meeting to discuss a range of topics in the coming weeks.
After the proposal to shake up the sporting scene and hold a new 16-team competition in 2023 has been declined, it appears everyone can focus on fighting for their traditional pieces of silverware in the short term at least.